Dateline: 13 July 2005
(Note: today’s blog is a continuation of yesterday’s blog post,
Earl The Bee Man & My First Hive)
Earl The Bee Man & My First Hive)
I went into the house to tell Marlene what I had seen and ended up having some breakfast. The boys heard my story and went out to investigate. They returned shortly to tell me there were “millions” of bees on the ground by one of my apple trees. I headed right out to see for myself.
Sure enough, there was a tight bunch of bees, about half a peck in size, maybe more, at the base of the tree. I called Earl Downes, the local bee-man and my mentor, and he came right over. He was suited, as usual, in his white bee-suit coveralls but wore no gloves or veil as he carried a section of hive (called a super) over and set it on the ground a couple feet from the beebunch.
Earl explained that when the hive population grows too large for the hive, the bees make another queen and a portion of the bee population takes off with her to find a place to make a new hive. It’s called a swarm. The tight cluster of bees before us was surrounding the queen, he said.
I was trying to figure out why I saw a cloud of bees take off and here was this churning mass before me. Did they come back and clump here when I was eating breakfast? Or were those bees in the cloud the house hunters? If Earl answered that question, I don’t remember. He told me they would find the super he brought and move right in with the queen. Then he would return tomorrow and take it away and set the bees up somewhere in a full hive. He told me this while on his knees right next to the swarm.
Standing a few feet away, I inquired about the possibility of him getting stung. Earl explained that a fresh swarm won’t sting because they gorged themselves with honey before leaving the hive. But as the swarm ages, and the honey is consumed, the mass of bees will become a “dry swarm,” which can get downright mean.
“You can put your hand right into the swarm and they won’t sting you,” he said to me.
“You can do that,” I said. “But not me!”
“No, really!” he replied. “Watch this....” Earl slowly eased his ungloved hand into the moving mass. It enveloped him like a fluid up to his wrist. “There is incredible energy in a swarm of bees. You can feel the energy. Want to try it?”
I gave it a brief thought, threw caution to the wind, and did the unthinkable. Yes, it’s true, I put my bare hand into the middle of the massed bees.
“Can you feel the energy?” Earl asked.
Oh yeah, I could feel it alright. My bare hand was inside the organism of moving bees. It was one of the ultimate agrarian thrills of my life. I lifted my cupped palm slowly out of the swarm and bees, like water, flowed over the sides back into the mass. I tipped the cup and bees poured out. Believe it or not, I did not get stung.
Using his bare hands again, Earl parted the swarm, looking for the queen. He saw her for a moment. I did not. He manipulated the mass some more, spreading it out. “There she is! See her?” I saw a bee that looked to my untrained eye, pretty much like all the others, except maybe a little longer.
It was a learning experience for me that day.
As soon as Earl left, I headed back into the house to tell my family what I had done. I urged them to come out and watch me stick my bare hand into the swarm.
They huddled a safe distance away while I kneeled on the ground by the bees and told them, like an experienced bee man, what was going on. Then I said, “Watch this.” and I slowly eased my bare hand into the swarm.
Marlene and the kids were very impressed. Then I exclaimed, “You can feel the energy!” as I lifted a handful of bees into the air. At that moment I felt a different kind of energy. One of those little buggers must have dried out and got a bad attitude. Bee stings hurt and I yelled, “Ow!” and gave my hand a quick shake.
I probably don’t have to tell you that a good bee man does not shake his hand violently when he gets a sting. Several bees, still latched to my fingers, became alarmed and responded by stinging me several more times. I was on my feet by then, slapping my hand repeatedly on the side of my jeans. I noticed some bees were flying close to my head and swatted at them with my other hand. Things were getting ugly. I yelled to the family... RUNNNNNNNN!.... and we all hightailed it back to the house.
I was standing in the doorway when they got there. They couldn’t run very fast because they were laughing so hard.
My fingers swelled up like hot dogs.
Yes, it sure was a learning experience for me that day.